The European Union is concerned over “a sharp decline” in human rights in Equatorial Guinea as corruption, poverty, and repression continue to plague the country under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979. Since the 2016 elections that most opposition groups boycotted, citing procedural irregularities and intimidation, more than 130 people have been detained. President Nguema, who is the world’s longest serving non-royal head of state, has faced numerous coup attempts during almost 40 decades in office.
“The restrictions on freedom and arrests, particularly those of political opponents … since the elections in November 2017 arouse grave concern,” commented Catherine Ray, EU spokeswoman for foreign affairs and security policy. “The death in custody of Mr Ebee Ela, a member of the opposition party Ciudadanos por la Innovacion (CI, Citizens for Innovation), confirms the sharp decline in the human rights situation,” she added.
Santiago Ebee Ela was detained on 2 January and died at the police headquarters in the capital Malabo of “cruel torture”, the CI informed. President Nguema, however, commented that Mr. Ebee Ela was “sick” and that his death was not a result of ill-treatment. “Competent authorities in Equatorial Guinea should investigate in appropriate fashion without delay to clarify the reasons for the death,” the EU’s Ray responded.
Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers, but about two-thirds of its 1.2 million population live in poverty. Abundant oil revenues fund lavish lifestyles for the selected few surrounding President Nguema. Mismanagement of public funds, allegations of high-level corruption and other abuses including torture, arbitrary detention and disappearances coupled with repression of civil society organizations are day-to-day business in the small Western African country.